McDevitt on b/w

Note: Niall McDevitt was asked to supply a note regarding his extraordinary collection, so readers of Eyewear could more fully engage with his wide and deep sense of tradition.  This is what he wrote.  McDevitt, it seems to me, combines elements of the eccentric styles and learning of Pound, with the vitriol of Wyndham Lewis.  TS


What I'm trying to do with b/w is stand on the shoulders of such giants as Jeremy Reed, John 'Crow' Constable, Aidan Andrew Dun, Iain Sinclair et al in exploring poetry as urban shamanism.

The work is bohemian and is aware of the incarnations and reincarnations of bohemia: the Dionysians, Orphists/Pythagoreans, the Sufis/Haiku masters/Troubadours, the Amaurians/Free Spirits/Ranters etc. etc. etc.

I treat poetry as an art, not as a competitive sport or an academic discipline.

It is avant-garde/mainstream/performance poetry in one, as was Allen Ginsberg/Dylan Thomas/Sylvia Plath.

The best way of getting away from from the 'gentility problem' is to mix spirituality and scurrility a la Dante/Shakespeare/Goethe. The solid bourgeois is wary of either, terrified of both. Misunderstanding mummifies the work for the later Egyptologists.

The reintroduction of real/wild/raw/mad emotion - the ones we feel! - is the returning of lyric poetry to the spirit of the dark lady sonnets and the spirit of the modern popular song. 'I try to write the most embarrassing thing I can think of...' (John Wieners).

Multi-stylism is preferred to mono-stylism. Shapeshifting is the modus operandi. It's not about finding your voice, but finding your voices.

Until the poet reads the holy books, the poet is in kindergarten.

Until we recognise David Gascoyne as the best English poet of the 20th Century, we haven't noticed the tectonic shift.

I'm also really trying to address the complete change in reality that has occurred in the first decade of the third millennium. It amazes me that so many poets carry on Larkining/Muldooning/Patersoning about as if nothing had happened.


Paul Stubbs said…
The only thing strange about this response by Niall on the marginally good review he received is that he is amazed that 'so many poets carry on Larkining/Muldooning/ Patersoning'? This is England where the mind has long since been atrophied by the Larkin and Eliot schools of thinking. 'Until the poet reads the holy books' of course Niall, but to the English Larkin, Paterson, Armitage and other fools ARE the 'holy books'. First tear down 'The poetry schools' retire the 'facilitators'etc. Move abroad Niall, for the alternative is Magma, Poetry London and other totally defunct magazines; Or better that submit to a real European magazine like my own in Paris.
Tom Phillips said…
And in response to this response, I have three questions:
a)what are 'the holy books'? Do you mean the Bible, Qu'ran etc or something else? What kind of education, in your opinion, would allow a poet to graduate from the 'kindergarten'?
b) how does Gascoyne's work represent a 'tectonic shift' and from/towards what?
c) has 'reality' actually changed so dramatically in the first decade of this millennium? And, if so, how?
Niall McDevitt said…
a) Enough holy books, Tom, not to feel perturbed by a book's calling itself 'a 100 page temple'. This is timid secularism. b/w's 100 pages is homage to the 100 copperplates of Blake's Jerusalem. From the Kabbala try The Bahir Illumination. From the Gnostic try Pistis Sophia. From the Hermetic try Poemandres, The Shepherd of Man.

b) Because the bourgeoisie always have to back winners it means that some poets have to go through decades - even centuries! - of quarantine before admittance to the canon. Gascoyne is a more authentic poet of the left, and of Christianity, than Auden. The funny thing about Gascoyne being the best English poet of the 20th century is that he was never invited to Buckingham Palace but broke in while high on amphetamines. Mina Loy is another English poet whose unsuccessful, heartbroken, slum-dwelling life is being fumigated. By the end of the 21st century they will be widely appreciated as great 20th century English poets. That is the shift.

c) 9/11 was our Troy. We are living in the darkest times since WW2. 18th century levels of social oppression are feeling normal again.
We live in the twin shadows of Jihad and bankruptcy. And climate change adds a spectacular backdrop of biblical weather. Where have you been?

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